Time to look beyond screens

blog first appeared on experiencesutra.com

As a technologist, I have always been fascinated by the subject of Human-Machine interfaces. I believe technology is as good as its application in real world. One of the greatest aspirations of experience technologist is to build human centric experiences. I advocate for a need to look beyond our fixation with Screen Only experiences to achieve that goal.

In 1999, I bought myself a cellular phone (as it was called back in those days), my first thoughts, holding the device in my hands were of disbelief – it occurred to me that computing had finally been out of computers. Here was a “Smart” device – lot more than a telephone, less than a computer but powerful enough to process complex instructions. I could chat (messaging), organize and store my contacts, play games (albeit simpler ones) and obviously make calls on the move. It boasted of a small (relative to today’s phones) black and white screen with a large hardware keypad that would act as an interface. It was a smart marriage of calculator and cordless phones, however, it boasted of an Operating System that would process instructions, run operations and spit out information. It had enough tricks to keep a technology enthusiast like me interested and intrigued about the possibilities.  In last two decades, our generation went through two decades of learning to master the interfaces that could hardly be termed intuitive and natural.

Rise of the Smart Screen:

In 2007, Apple launched its flagship Smart Phone – iPhone,  that just reshaped mobile phone industry. iPhone was a masterpiece in all departments of Hardware and Software design. It would forever redefine intuitive interface by introducing multi touch screens. A mobile phone just became way of life.

Smart Screen phenomenon just took off, for the next few years every other device (PCs included) wanted to be a touch interface. Every Brand wanted to build a digital experience that was designed around Smart Screens.  The large public interactive installations were designed as glorified and magnified touch based Smart Screens.

Need for look beyond Screens:

Touch screens helped us move away from Machine centric user experiences those were driven by Mouse and Keyboards, but to conclude that touch based interfaces are the answer to Human centric experiences is far from being the truth. There has been an over-dependence (and justifiably so) of on Smart Screen in building all the digital experiences since the launch of iPhone to cash on the always on bandwagon.

There is a widespread view that technology needs to integrate seamlessly into natural human environment. It needs to augment and enhance our everyday experiences, which are very organic in nature. Usage of Screens  should not  be-all end-all  for all digital experiences.

One of the solutions would be to invest in Ambient Intelligence, where in the environment and everyday mundane objects could also participate in our experiences. Amazon Echo is a great example of leveraging Natural Language processing to make ambient intelligent enough to participate in your everyday experiences.

There has been a sure in innovative products that are re-imagining human experiences beyond a Screen and are integrating Digital into our environment and everyday objects.

Vessyl – a connected mug automatically identifies the ingredient, records the calories and passively keeps a record. It doesn’t ask you to use your smartphone to record your meals.

Vanhawks – a connected bike that  has built in sensors and feedback to assist you in your trips.

What will drive the change

There is a huge opportunity as consumers increasingly live their lives across physical and digital to also elevate our experiences to leverage emerging technology and trends to build Human Experiences.

Sensors & Data:

We need to build contextual and relevant experiences for our Consumers in Physical world. As an example, as a retailer I would like to offer dynamic pricing on the stock thats due for refresh and is in the aisles where foot falls have been lesser through the day. Sensors that collect data about people, places and things coupled with real time data analytics could help business realize such a scenario in a real physical world.

Sensors are going to be backbone for Ambient Intelligence and Data based analytics will be the brain behind the contextual experiences.

Connected world:

As we get into “Internet of Things” era, every day objects would get smarter. Our environments would become connected and smarter. I would think that our interactions with all the smarter objects would increase significantly. That would also mean that reliance on the screen would go down for day to day experiences.

An umbrella with an integrated ambient light is a natural way of alerting consumers about the possibility of rain.


It would be much more natural for a pill bottle to remind you about taking your medicine on time.


More wearables:

Future of experience technology platforms would be lot close to YOU, you and I will be wearing a lot of technology. Our  smartphone will get disintegrated into tens of different devices that we wear. This would result in new ways of integrated interactions between consumers and technology.

Here is a smart t-shirt that keeps heart rate check, acts as a pedometer, keeps track of your activities and also provides you feedback when its time for you to exercise.


A framework to consider:

As David Rose (researcher at MIT Medialabs) writes in his book – Enchanted objects (www.enchantedobjects.com) is a possible way to build experiences that don’t have a bias for Screen only experiences. He goes on to talk about a framework to build human centric experiences by advocating for a seven attributes Enchanted Objects (picture below).



Screens are going no where and would continue to be a key channel for digital experiences. I believe, in near future Screens would  evolve to play a niche role in experience ecosystem.  As new consumer technologies mature and adoption picks up, Brands and Experience designers would have to rethink how we build experiences that are natural and would be part of consumers life experiences.

future of technology | a pov

This blog first appeared on experiencesutra.com

As a technologist, I am always urged to answer this question – What is the future of technology? A lot is being written on how the new future may look like and how soon that will dawn upon us. Some say that it is about reaching the target of 2billion internet users by 2020. Some say it is about more wearable devices and intelligent systems like IBM’s Watson.

“To me, the future of technology lies is enabling experience. You and your surroundings will be the platform through which that experience is delivered.”

Consider this: Imagine the year 2049. You are sitting on your couch that takes your body shape as you lean on it. You feel like soaking in mother nature from up close and at your thought your window glasses change the scene from a high tech modern city to a lush green next to a lake setting, room lighting changes to reflect the mood and your smart connected devices participate by playing sounds (birds chirping), breeze (air-con adjusts temperature and fan speed). Not only that your cloth respond by changing color (to a more floral outfit). You might have programmed your virtual assistant to dial in your partner to be with you at this moment and so you get a 3D virtual hologram face to face interaction with your partner right at that moment. In all this, technology is trying to create experience that is quite natural and which could be driven by you and your thought. This is the future of technology.

The future will be about deriving experience through technology. The term Experience Technology is born out of this concept. As the name suggests, it is any technology that could lead to conditions that evoke human experiences. Watching a 3D movie with dolby sound and in a large wrap around screen is an immersive experience powered by technology.

This isn’t entirely new. As author William Gibson says, “The future is already here. It is just that it isn’t evenly distributed”. We are at a powerful moment where technology is both the catalyst and mirror to change.

The seeds of experience technology have already been sown. They are around us in the form of :

  1. wearables that generate data about our lifestyle.
  2. sensors that collect data about our health.
  3. headbands that can recognise 8 different impulses.
  4. switchable displays.
  5. 3D holograms.
  6. programmable environments (lights, sound etc.)

The day is not far away when your calendar will realize that an important early morning meeting is cancelled and communicates to the alarm to wake you up half an hour later.

“Is experience technology limited to lifestyle experiences? It isn’t, it never was.”

As I write this, somewhere on this planet, the future of mankind is evolving as technology is making a huge positive impact in other fields like medical sciences. Currently, with our understanding of human bodies and our ability to program our genome we are creating nano robots that will heal our body automatically. Scientists are researching on how to train our brain to view, hear or respond a completely different signal from a different sense than it has been used to.

We want a world in which deaf people can hear through eyes and blind can see with their ears. Experience then becomes more than just human and becomes humanitarian.

Recently in China, a boy whose eyes were gouged out in an attack has been fitted with an electrical device that enables him to visualize images and walk unaided. Mind-controlled prosthetic devices plugged directly into the brain seem capable of restoring some self-reliance to stroke victims, car crash survivors, injured soldiers and others hampered by incapacitated or missing limbs. At the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab, researchers are creating prosthetic devices that feel and act like biological limbs. Those limbs have computers, sensors and muscle-like actuator systems that enable movement.

When experience technology start touching lives in most humane ways, brands too will be drawn towards it. We are at an incredibly exciting stage where story telling is marrying technology. The new breed of marketers understands the power of experience which is enabled by technology to create a ubiquitous and omni-channel experience.

Think about a day when a marketer could directly plant messages through a neural connection – or program something directly to be used for sight, ear etc. Tomorrow, an app could be written for you specifically based on your interest for your exoskeleton.

As a technologist, my vision is to impact the lives of millions of people and create experiences that are unique and endearing. It is not about technology alone. It depends on our ability to envisage the changing patterns of human experience.

Deriving the intangible from the tangible needs a mindset. You will be part of the change if you have a mindset that appreciates the trivial and draws inspiration from the usual, natural and the mundane.

interface is the message | future of experiences could be influenced by innovation in interfaces

HCI is an area which hasn’t seen a lot of advancement in 60  odd years of computer history. I believe that human experiences can be greatly influenced by the conditions that we build (infrastructure, environment, people etc.). Same applies to digital experiences – conditions that we build influence consumers experience of accessing a service/product/information at every touch point.

As a technologist, one of the most important condition that we could influence (by innovating) is the interface layer. Interfaces would undergo a huge change with the invasion of pervasive computing – visible / screen less – natural – gesture driven interfaces would take over and will drive the next gen changes in machine driven economy.

what’s intelligence?

I moved around my apps on my phone, reorganized them into a different folder structure. This restructuring led to app icons / folders moving from left corner of my phone to the right hand side and shifted up by a row. Next time, I looked for the app but couldn’t locate it, took me a few seconds before i could actually find the app that had shifted by few pixels on a very small screen. I asked myself what does this mean ?

My brain predicted that as per the order of pattern for last so many days the icon had to be at a certain place.

Interestingly, I validated this through many other observations.

On my way to office there is a busy crossway, which usually caused multiple jams during peak hours. Considering the traffic situation the cross way was closed and an alternate U turn was created few 100 meters ahead. I have noticed the change for multiple weeks now, however, whenever I drive past that point I automatically drive on the left hand side of the road considering that folks on the right will take a turn (which has been closed). This just happens even when am aware of the change that happened many weeks ago.

There are numerous such instances where my reaction completely depends on Predictions that my brain is making based on historical data/pattern/learnings/teachings and so on. It is almost as if the reaction is driven by the kind of Data that is stored somewhere in my head.

So the question is:

Is prediction the basis of human intelligence?

Possibly true, I would want you to think about it and make your own inferences.

  • Are we as intelligent as the learnings in our life?
  • Does that mean our smartness is driven by the awareness we show about our surroundings?
  • Does that mean being in chaos as opposed to an orderly environment leads to greater intelligence?

I would also leave you with one other thought – does the emotional intelligences also depend on the mining of the data thats stored in the warehouse (brain) and the patterns that could lead to a familiar predictive way to react to how we expected something to be in our life and surroundings.

I am almost convinced that is the case – how about you?

BTW – for all geeks out there, Data is the key to AI. Deep Learning shall mimic the patterns/learnings based on the situations that the machine comes across (based on test data).

are you designing your career?

this post ignited quite a few discussions with friends and folks from industry – thought would make a couple of quick edits/updates. v2.0

about people, places, things and EXPERIENCES

This isn’t a post about your passion, following your dreams or what have you. I think there is better material available out there. These are few lines about my observation in our industry – IT industry as you know it. Most of us who work for an ever evolving organisation or come from a background where everything revolves around ambition of getting to next level, important role and probably an onsite opportunity … there is a lot that rides on our choices (on the way) between those years spent at an organisation.

My question is – do we make choices when making important career decisions? 

You may compare jobs/roles when we are joining a new organisation (or may be note) but what about the career choices when you have to grow within an organisation? Do you ask the right questions like where does a particular role take me? whether the choice of work takes…

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a framework for building meaningful omnichannel experiences

I believe in delivering and building meaningful experiences for todays consumers. As a creative-technologist i thought it would be meaningful to create a simple framework to bring together my thought process in one simple frame.

so here is what I believe in:

framework | meaning experiences

Couple of important elements to this frame:

Fundamentally – idea and technology need to work together for a meaningful experience. Technology is as important as the idea.

Data acts as a bridge between Science and Art of story telling. Data is the glue that binds marketing objectives and story telling channels.

Always Design for Humans – think about Human senses, Natural communication and Human ecosystem in mind when thinking of designing the experiences. If we design for humans as a philosophy, most likely than not we would be able to create/achieve Empathetic natural experiences as an outcome.